Montreal 2014: Gold rush for France's swimmer Nicolas Granger


Nicolas Granger (FRA) - credit: Delphine Schmutz/FINASince his first participation at FINA World Masters Championships exactly 20 years ago, in Montreal in 1994, Frenchman Nicolas Granger had but one idea in mind: to come back. The 47-year-old Masters swimmer, who has broken a total 21 World records, pocketed two titles today, August 4, at the Parc Jean-Drapeau pool, the 100m freestyle and 100m breaststroke, and is clearly on track for more medals this week.
You can tell from the first look that Granger is no stranger to racing. In the line-up for the 100m breaststroke, the man stayed focused despite the surrounding hurly-burly, relaxing his long arms, his mind set on a clear goal: win this race. And so he made it happen, obliterating the field to post a remarkable 1:06.66, rattling Vladimir Pylypchenko's world record of 1:06.35, and claiming his 21st Masters world title to date.

"I'm happy to still be able to win medals. Two in one day, that's worth the sacrifices," Granger said.

"To be able to go 1:06 in the 100m breaststroke at 47, I mean, I could not even do it 30 years ago!"

Best of all, he noted, "my times get better with age." The breaststroke was a bit of a challenge: "It is not my stroke, I started only recently to train breaststroke."

A member of the men's senior French relay team at 27, Granger reflected: "When you're young, you think everything revolves around it [competitive swimming]. At 47, I fully realise that this is of secondary importance. It's a different approach: you're more into discovery, fulfillment and enjoyment." 

"I've had two cancers. Swimming, in a way, saved me."

1994-2014: looping the loop in Montreal

Along the way, Granger has attended no less than six FINA World Masters Championships but Montreal was the first and most memorable.

"I still hold a few meet records from that year," he said, a glint of glory in his light-blue eyes.

Granger still remembered the pool in 1994, at the Olympic Park, the venue of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.

"20 years ago, it was a human-size meet. Everybody swam, trained in one pool. Today, the event has reached tremendous dimensions."

One thing remained unchanged, he recalled: "I love the city, the people, the atmosphere. It was essential that I come back here!"

Nicolas Granger (FRA) just after winning his 100m freestyle race - credit: Delphine Schmutz/FINA
Nicolas Granger (FRA) just after winning his 100m freestyle race - credit: Delphine Schmutz/FINA

A family affair

A father of seven, Granger made "a lot sacrifices" to come here: "to go to work, take care of the family, find time and energy to train, that's an organisation of every minute."

"My dad, a former swimming coach, is here too, at 78 years old! We're both proud of each other, swimming is really a passion. It allows you to stay fit, to set objectives, no matter your age."

In 2004 in Riccione, Italy, Granger came alone. "But the Masters Worlds, this is something you live with your friends and family," he said.

Granger travelled to Montreal with his parents. His mother gives the best of support to each of them, race after race.

The Frenchman is entered in three more events this week: the 400m IM, 200m freestyle and 200m IM, his pet event. This Sunday, August 10, Granger will be among the 1'400 swimmers taking to the water for a 3km effort in the Olympic basin. He hopes to be in Guadalajara, Mexico in three years' time to celebrate his 50th birthday with, decisively, more medals and World records under his belt.